Eco­nom­ics of car-cram­ming

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE -

ROB STOCK MONEY MAT­TERS rob.stock@fair­fax­me­ Four hun­dred yards from my drive­way is the con­tro­ver­sial Hous­ing NZ prop­erty David Sey­mour and many of my neigh­bours are con­cerned about.

There will be 25 units on the site, which is con­ve­niently lo­cated by shops and bus-routes.

One of the ar­gu­ments raised against this so­cial hous­ing den­si­fi­ca­tion (Hous­ing NZ al­ready has places on the site) is that the street is al­ready crammed with cars. Sure, and who’s fault is that? I live on a big sec­tion that’s been split five ways, and now has five houses on it.

When we moved in five years ago, there were ten cars on our wee slice of heaven. Now there’s 17. Our house­hold (two adults, two school age chil­dren) only has one car.

We aren’t even in an outer ly­ing sub­urb. There’s a reg­u­lar flow of buses run­ning into town. We are well served for ameni­ties; Cin­ema, shops, ten­nis clubs (three in a kilo­me­tre and a half ra­dius!), schools, cafes, all within walk­ing dis­tance.

De­spite all that, we’re Shed a car, save a small for­tune It could pay for your re­tire­ment Liv­ing near work is worth choos­ing cars beg­ging the ques­tion: If we in our sub­urb won’t get out of cars, who in Auck­land ever will?

Our lo­cal car cram­ming is den­si­fi­ca­tion at work.

Two of the five houses I men­tioned are rel­a­tively new, five bed­room places which re­placed smaller ones.

These days, every bed­room seems to mean a car in the drive, or parked on the street out­side.

The eco­nom­ics of this are clear. Big houses equals big mort­gage, which is much eas­ier to pay with mul­ti­ple earn­ing adults, each of whom has a car.

Auck­land has rel­a­tively low per capita car own­er­ship in Kiwi city terms be­cause pub­lic trans­port isn’t to­tally ter­ri­ble, and some (like me) com­mute by bike.

For me the eco­nom­ics of sell­ing one car and be­com­ing a one-car fam­ily (two adults, two school age chil­dren) was com­pelling. For tiny to medi­um­sized cars cost (on av­er­age) be­tween $7300 and $10,335 to run, ac­cord­ing to the AA (In­di­vid­ual’s costs will vary).

Imag­ine that com­ing off the mort­gage, or go­ing into the Ki­wiSaver each year.

Re­search sug­gests most peo­ple don’t see the world like me. Why? Peo­ple like cars be­cause, well, they like cars, and for most, the al­ter­na­tive is pub­lic trans­port, which doesn’t give them four things they re­ally value: pre­dictable (not nec­es­sar­ily faster) jour­neys, a sense of free­dom, pri­vacy and com­fort.

Once you ac­tu­ally have a car (most peo­ple’s cul­tural norm), and paid the lumpy an­nual fixed costs (in­sur­ance, rego, etc), the ac­tual weekly costs of run­ning it aren’t that high.

AA es­ti­mates the flex­i­ble costs (petrol, tyres, main­te­nance, etc) are about 17.8-25.6 cents a kilo­me­tre (not in­clud­ing park­ing).

Try get­ting any­where on a bus for that.

So, eco­nom­i­cally speak­ing for many it’s a case of ‘‘have car, might as well drive it’’.

Tech­nol­ogy will, I be­lieve, one day save us all. E-bikes are get­ting cheaper, and au­ton­o­mous cars and buses are com­ing.

Un­til then (as­sum­ing the costs of mo­tor­ing don’t rise dra­mat­i­cally), the cram­ming of streets and drive­ways will con­tinue un­til every pos­si­ble gap into which a car can be squeezed is filled.

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